Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Is Instagram Really "Social"?

I appreciate people who are taking the time to investigate social media platforms' Terms of Service like Karine Joly, who has started a weekly "Social Media TOS Tuesday." She recently blogged about Instagram's Terms of Service (TOS) and what we can and can't do on our brands' accounts.

One of the points Karine made was that re-posting other users' content on your account violates Instagram's TOS. I've seen many colleges and universities doing this and doing it well - many ask for permission to re-post and then credit the person behind the original post, which I think is a critical piece to going this route. But this is frowned upon by Instagram because it's not the brand's original content.

This is also true on Facebook. Creating a Facebook album of your community's best Instagram photos also violates the TOS, unless you're using an API or linking directly to the person's content. For our community, students don't want us necessarily linking to their accounts. In talking with some of our students, they'd love for us to post their content, but even though their accounts are public (since we can see their content), they don't want just anyone looking at them. 

Learning all of this was a real eye-opener for me as Instagram has become a very popular tool for us and where we've had a lot of success in the last 10 months. It's made me question Instagram: Does their TOS allow us to be truly "social" on the platform?  Karine's posts leave me extremely frustrated with Instagram (not with her, of course!) and thinking undoubtedly yes because in many ways, they don't allow us to foster a community of sharing and engagement like we've been trained to do with other tools. Rather, the platform focuses on metrics such as simply "liking" photos, something I don't think means much at all..

In higher education, many social media "teams" and managers are actually one-person shows who can't be everywhere at once and not always around to grab that perfect sunset photo or events that students are capturing every day. Re-posting photos is a way to show your community the bigger picture of your brand (and crowd-sources, which often yields much better content!) and I'd think would make the content creator feel really good about what they're doing and feel even better about your institution.

I'm all about giving credit where credit is due, which is what this all comes down to - I don't care about likes or comments on our own posts, but pushing out great content that reflects who we really are -that's what social media is all about. I think linking to a person's Instagram account in the caption/comments, you're linking people back to the original content creator. Should that violate anything?

If we choose to follow Instagram's TOS, it really limits us in what we're doing for our community. If they created a re-post option where the person's work that was re-posted received all the likes and comments, then great! I actually like that better than the idea of a brand getting all the engagement for another's work. They should be the ones seeing and relishing in that. Then they'd see how valued their work is and be really proud. Our community wants that and in my fantasy social media world, I'll hope for a resolution of some kind as Instagram evolves - either in creating a re-post option or amending the TOS.

Until then, for those schools or brands who have found success in re-posting, will you continue doing so? What are you doing to stay in check with Instagram's TOS, if anything?

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Most Valuable Share

It's hard to admit this, but I'm a hoarder. 

Okay, so maybe not one in the A&E sense, but when it comes to content I've come across on social media this last year, I've been really selfish. 

As the main social media manager on campus, I get to see what prospective students, current students, faculty, staff and alumni say about us every day and oftentimes engage with those people. At the end of the day, unless I retweet or share the posts, the only people seeing these interactions are just those involved - often me and one, maybe two other people -  and a few followers. And it only exists in these social media vacuums.

So one of my goals this year is a rather simple one - share more of our awesome content, but not necessarily in terms of sharing on Facebook and Twitter; my goal is to do more sharing outside of social media.

This is something I've been thinking about since the spring after I printed out a couple of our Facebook posts about staff members and alumni that received a ton of positive, encouraging comments and physically shared the post with those staff members and alumni. These people, who wouldn't have come across these posts otherwise, got to see they were valued. It was sharing this information beyond the confines of social media platforms that generated (what I would argue to be) the most exciting and emotional kind of engagement I can provide in the work I do.

This goal was solidified during an experience I had this week. A first-year student posted an Instagram photo of a gift our Alumni Council gave him and his classmates at Matriculation. The caption thanked the Alumni Council specifically, so I shared the post with the staff liaison on campus in hopes she would share it with some members of the Council. She shared it with everyone and moments later, a Council member commented on the photo, "On behalf of the entire Alumni Council, you're most welcome." 

I'm sure I'm not the first social media manager making a commitment to doing more of this kind of sharing. I work on a small campus and in a tight-knit community so it's a little easier for me to do this. It may take some extra time, but when you're putting a smile on a staff member's face or allowing alumni who volunteer to see a student cherishing their efforts, it can only do good things for them, us and the communities we're so proud to be a part of.

These shares won't do anything to boost our EdgeRank or post reach, but I'm guessing they will be appreciated by those on the receiving end. No analytics report could ever assign a number or statistic to that.